Sadly, the original game wasn't brilliant even in its day. The platforming and level design remain second-fiddle, with the game's focus being on its pretty visuals and zany environments.
Earthworm Jim HD adds in some new co-operative multiplayer challenges, aswell as some new single-player levels. It takes about four to five hours to see everything, but whether you'll have put the game down through frustration before-hand depends on your tolerance levels.
Earthworm Jim HD looks fantastic. The original game was always known for its quirky sense of humour and bizarre stages. That's still its best selling point. Trips through gigantic intestines and fiery labyrinths are still compelling, if only for the game's bizarre visual style.
The new co-operative content in Earthworm Jim HD is probably the best part of the package. It plays out a little like LittleBigPlanet, with four-players using simple co-operative teamwork to solve puzzles. The content's a little short-lived, but it's enjoyable while it lasts. The new levels are equally well thought-0ut, and are infinitely more enjoyable than the original levels. They kinda make you wish for an entirely new Earthworm Jim game, made in the style of the original.
If there's one area where staying true to the original game has been to good effect, it's Earthworm Jim HD's soundtrack. The synth-driven tunes are one of the best things about the game. Likewise, Earthworm Jim's synthesised cries of "Groovy" are still genuinely entertaining — even though they feel like they're stuck on loop at times.
So many elements of the original Earthworm Jim were frustrating at the time, but fast-forward over 15 years and the problems are heightened. The level design is unclear throughout, opting to guide you with little more than a flashing arrow. Trial and error becomes a key component of navigating the stages, as it's never made particularly clear which objects are part of the scenery, and which objects can be interacted with. Likewise, the platforming is equally hit or miss. Jim feels awfully restricted and floaty. Even though it feels like he should be making certain jumps and grabbing onto various objects, the game's designed in a linear way that demands you perform actions in a certain order. But the general platforming is the least of Earthworm Jim HD's problems — much of the game is unbelievably archaic. The Peter Puppy escort mission - which has you guiding a small dog through a hazardous asteroid shower - is really poorly designed. It can feel impossible getting this dog through multiple hazards, while ensuring you don't actually die yourself. Likewise, the space-shuttle races that break-up the game's main story become tiresome pretty fast. For all Earthworm Jim HD's flash and visual flair, the actual game's borderline unplayable. It really is that frustrating.
Earthworm Jim HD may look pretty in its high-definition guise but, being a re-release of the original Mega Drive title, it feels more old than it does new.